No sale for medical marijuana business in St. John’s: RNC
Owner says opportunity exists for progressive approach, taxation
The owner of Health Cannabis on Water Street in St. John’s says he has been put on notice by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary: sell marijuana and risk criminal charges.
The warning comes despite the federal government’s promise of new legislation to come in spring 2017 — expected to legalize the business of marijuana and possession for more than just medical use.
“They called my landlord a couple of days ago,” said David Ferkul, who spoke with The Telegram Wednesday afternoon. “Then he gave us a number. I phoned them back. They waited a couple of days and I finally got the call today.”
He said the caution was also delivered in writing.
A business for patients
Ferkul said Health Cannabis is a “members only” spot, with membership being limited to medical marijuana licence holders. The location is only open on weekends and potentially some other, unusual hours.
“The new federal law states that you have to receive your (prescription) marijuana through mail order from one of the 36 licenced producers,” he said, referring to a list of producers licenced by Health Canada (the list is available on the regulator’s website).
“Currently they cannot produce enough supply for the demand and that’s where the dispensaries have come in, to sort of fill that void.”
He did not refer to the Health Cannabis operation in St. John’s as a dispensary, but offered this as a note on the legal landscape.
Making no admission to marijuana sales, he said his shop is open at those times when medical marijuana deliveries might
not be reaching local patients through the mail.
He is a grower as licenced under the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR), he said. The law has changed since the repeal of the MMAR in March 2014, but anyone who was licensed under the MMAR was given the opportunity to apply to continue growing on an interim basis, he said, under a special authorization.
Illegal or not?
Ferkul said he understands the message issued this week by police in St. John’s.
“They’re saying that it’s illegal to dispense marijuana through a retail unit. Which makes sense. It is. On black and white paper,” he said.
“But according to the (February 2016) ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, they state patients need reasonable access to their medicine and,
that being said, they’ve grandfathered in a law to allow every MMAR grower — about 28,000 growers in Canada — to continue to produce their product.
“The only way else to interpret that is to say, those patients, any excess could be given to other patients with the federal prescription and that’s where we’d step in.”
He has been tracking cases related to medical marijuana sales being brought to the courts.
“Not every case is going to be thrown out the door, but a lot of them are being thrown out the door just because it’s ‘A,’ so close to legalization, which is what the court, the judges, are calling it; or ‘B,’ it’s for medical purposes,” he said.
Health Cannabis in Ontario
Ferkul has two other Health Cannabis locations in Ontario — one in Etobicoke and one in Newmarket. He said the Health Cannabis in Etobicoke was “caught up” in a raid by police, after several raids on a neighbouring business. He said he has a related court date on Dec. 15 in Ontario.
Marijuana is notably being handled differently across the country at the moment, with the “more liberal” City of Vancouver active in permitting marijuana businesses. Police there have deemed licenced marijuana enterprises to be a low priority.
The story is different further East.
“The police are just sticking to what they’re told, what it says currently in legislation and that’s it. So they’ll keep raiding us, but when it gets to court, nine out of 10 times — for our sake I would say 100 per cent of the time — it’s going to be just thrown out, because we’re operating for the patients,” Ferkul said.
He referred to them as civil disobedience cases, calling police and court activity that is targeting marijuana specifically a waste of resources.
The Telegram reached out to the RNC, but shortly after, at about 4 p.m., received an email stating a response would not be possible on the day. Any further response will be provided at thetelegram.com and in future print and digital editions.
An unidentified employee of Health Cannabis on Water Street works around the location on Water Street in St. John’s. The medical marijuana membership location was issed a warning by the RNC that if they sell the product it will risk being charged for...